Last Modified on Jun 22, 2014
“Shin splints” is a term used to refer to pain that occurs along the shinbone at the front of the leg. While runners are most commonly affected by the condition, other individuals including walkers, dancers and military recruits are also highly susceptible. In any case, however, effective stretching paired with the appropriate nutrition can offer relief from shin splints and other use-related injuries.
What are Shin Splints?
Shin splints can be defined as pain that is localized in the shin bones. The cause of the condition is overwork or stress on the muscles, tendons and bone tissue surrounding the shins. Symptoms include tenderness, soreness, pain and mild swelling in the lower leg.
Natural Remedies for Shin Splints
As shin splints are caused by repeated stress on the shin bones, remedies aim at strengthening and loosening the shin bone and associated muscle to prevent pain and tightness. This strengthening can be achieved using different stretching techniques and exercises. Nutritional supplements including vitamin D and calcium are also helpful for strengthening the bone and preventing strain on the muscles.
Preparing the body for work is crucial to prevent injury, and the same is true for the shins. Stretching the shins and calves prior to a workout prepares this part of the body for the work it is about to do just as stretching following a workout relaxes the muscles and prevents stiffness. Bending the knee forward and dragging the toes gently along the floor is an appropriate stretch to prevent shin splints.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones and muscle. This nutrient also helps the body absorb calcium and assists in muscle movement and nerve activity. An appropriate amount of this nutrient prevents strain on the shins and strengthens the body to eliminate pain.
Calcium functions in many of the same ways vitamin D does. This mineral supports bone and muscle health and also promotes circulation throughout the body. These vital functions help prevent shin splints by building strong bone and muscle and maintaining regular blood flow.
Shin splints are a very common condition that range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful. However, effective stretching and proper nutrition can help prevent the condition and are also part of a healthy exercise regimen.
[YEA] 03/24/2009: Jamea from Great Lakes, IL: "GOOD DAY! I AM IN THE NAVY, AND SHIN SPLINTS ALMOST STOPPED MY CAREER! YOU MUST TAKE MAGNESIUM! SOMETIMES WE HAVE AN OVERACCUMULATION OF CALCIUM WHICH CAUSES THE BONES TO HARDEN TO A POINT WHERE THEY CAN SNAP FROM CALCIFICATION. START WITH 50MG ONCE A DAY. THIS WILL MAKE YOU FEEL VERY RELAXED - THIS IS NORMAL! GIVE IT A FEW WEEKS BUT THE RESULTS WILL WORTH IT. AND YOU MUST ALSO STRECH YOUR SHINS BY TRAINING YOUR LEGS. GET ON YOUR KNEES AND SIT "JAPANEESE" STYLE BY LEANING BACK AS FAR AS YOU CAN GO. IT WILL GET YOUR SHINS GOOD AND STRETCHED. IT WAS A LIFE SAVER FOR ME. OH, AND TAKE ACV 2X A DAY!"
09/07/2010: Maeryn from Calgary, Ab, Canada: "Hey all, I am searching for an answer! Two years ago I was running in improper footwear and gave myself shin splints on each leg. Now they seem to have each healed, however, there is scar tissue damage, internally. A few months ago, I would touch my legs and they would feel bruised. So I started massaging them with oil of oregano after bathing and this seemed to help greatly. They dont hurt as much anymore, but I am still looking for a remedy for internal scar tissue damage? would omegas 3, 6 9 help?
I'm looking to start running and working out on a regular basis again. Whenever I go to the gym (not often) with my friends I'm always afraid I'm going to make my shins worse, so I take it easy while I work out. Any ideas? I do have proper footwear now, and walking long distances never seems to affect my shins. It's just the pounding of the pavement, or any similar activity that affects them."Replies
09/08/2011: Maeryn from Calgary, Ab replies: "Hey all, here is my update! The shin splints are gone! The deep tissue massage and rest really helped the scar tissue resolve itself. (increased blood circulation to area). Before I go for runs, I sit on a chair, keep my feet a few inches from the ground, and tap my toes. This really stretches and works the front and back muscles of the shin/ calf. They are then all warmed up and ready to go!"
06/27/2009: Fabat50 from SB, CA: "Help, My 76 yr old Mother, has severe shin pain, To the point of tears, She has been on rx for 30 years, for HBP, pain, osteothritis, I think her rx meds, cause her problems, THANK YOU FOR THIS SIGHT, BLESSINGS"
[YEA] 05/10/2009: Kendra from Dickinson, ND: "Hello. I've spent a good deal of time and effort battling chronic shin splints, so I figured I'd put down a bit of information on what helped me. I joined the military out of high school and hadn't done much running up until that point, so I had very little knowledge of exercise-induced injuries when I started experiencing shin pain. I was on the run team, so I did quite a bit of running, both distance and speed workouts. My shin pain grew worse - my teammates told me it was shin splints and that I needed to stretch more and run through the pain and it would eventually get better. Well, it didn't get better... it got progressively worse. I stretched before and immediately after running, and would ice my shins when I got back to the dorms. It got to a point where I could hardly lift my feet anymore, running became a haphazard 'slapping' of my feet against the ground. The pain was severe, even when I went about normal daily activities. You can actually perpetuate shin splints to a point where your shin bones break and you're walking/running on bones with hairline fractures. I was lucky enough not to get to that point. I had to stop running for months to give my shins a chance to heal. I started doing research - talking to doctors, scouring the internet, chatting with fellow runners about what worked for them. I was told by my doctor, after examining my legs and my gait, that my shins were slightly curved (bowed), so I would probably never completely rid myself of shin pain if I continued to run extensively. Soooooo, though the majority of shin splints can be dealt with sufficiently through the methods I list below, some of us will continue to get them no matter what. But we can significantly decrease the pain and discomfort - here's what worked for me:
The single most important thing I did was to change the type of running shoe I wore. I went from a "whatever stands out on the shelf" type of shoe to a "motion control/stability" shoe designed for severe over-pronators. I also went to a specialist who made a mold of my foot and crafted orthopedic inserts so that my foot wouldn't roll (pronate) as much. I also took changed my running stance. I read in a running magazine that you should run however your body feels most comfortable, but I believe that how I was running was perpetuating my shin splints. I had a lazy kind of shuffle run, didn't pick up my feet and run heel-toe straight. I fixed that and felt like it helped.
Stretching is also EXTREMELY important. It's best to warm up your muscles and then do your stretches - stretching cold muscles can do more damage than good. It's IMPERATIVE that you stretch thoroughly after your exercise as well. There are many stretches for your shins, (check the internet or ask a doctor) but my personal favorite is digging your heel into the ground with your toe against a wall - its a calf stretch, but you can feel it everywhere in your shins (and shins and calves go hand-in-hand). Another good one is to push the top of your toes/foot against the ground, move around a bit until you feel the shin muscles stretch where you want them to. It's helpful to do 'shin exercises' to strengthen them - while you're sitting in class, or at work, or wherever - just "air trace" the letters of the alphabet with one foot, then the other. Hydration is important as well. On days that I wasn't properly hydrated, my shin pain would flare up much faster than normal.
My brother, who shares my curved shin curse (guess its genetic) managed to find shin compression sleeves at a local store. He wore them for basketball and they helped him quite a bit with controlling pain. He also had another treatment he swears by, but I've never tried it (I don't run enough anymore to have the problems I previously experienced). He would ice his shins as soon as he could after exercise, let them get good and numb, then let them thaw completely. Once thawed, he would apply heat (he used an electric heating pad). His reasoning was that the cold, applied immediately after aggravation, would reduce swelling, then the heat would open blood vessels for circulation and repair.
Try not to 'slap' or 'pound' your feet when you run. Running down hills tends to tear the shin muscles, while running uphill tends to strengthen them. Run as gently as you can when running downhill. If you can alternate high-impact exercise (ei jogging, jumping, etc) with lower-impact (swimming, eliptical machine, biking, etc), it gives your shins a chance to rest and repair while you're still being active. If they're extremely painful, or if they just won't go away, you may want to consider giving them a good long rest, so they can fully heal. I was eventually forced into doing just that.
Shin splints are a pain to deal with and you have to be proactive about treating them. Hopefully, you are among the crowd that will get them temporarily, deal with it, then be on with life. But if you're a chronic sufferer, you'll need to take an active role in prevention and treatment, or they'll just get worse."
[YEA] 04/19/2008: T from Dumont, NJ: "In response to the person looking for help w/ shin splints... I had them occasionally when I used to play on my HS tennis team. I learned a stretch that seemed to keep them from coming back and continue to use when I'm jogging. While standing, bend your knee and drag your toes along the floor, preferably without shoes for the best stretch. The top of your foot will be toward the floor. Do this gently, feeling the stretch in the top of your foot, front of your ankle, and up into the shin area. I follow this with a calf stretch (like leaning toward a wall and lowering heel to ground). I see it as stretching the foot, ankle, and lower leg thru full range of motion. Hope this helps."
[BETTER BUT NOT CURED] 04/18/2008: Kelly from Walworth, New York: "In response to Stacy from Dixon, IL. I recently spoke with a rheumatologist who told me shin splints can be caused from a lack of Vit. D. He suggested I take Vit D-3 1000 IU in the summer and 1800 IU in the winter. The dose may be different for a teenager. I haven't started yet so I can't tell you if it works or not but I'm going to try it"Replies
04/16/2008: Stacy from Dixon, IL replies: "Is there anything that can help my teenager with shin splints? We have tried iceing the area and wraping the shins prior to running but this does not seem to be effective."
[YEA] 04/21/2010: Sal from Boston, Ma replies: "The only thing that helped my shin splints, as an avid soccer player, is Vitamin D supplements. I had shin splints and weak mussels for the better part of 2 years. I found out that I had Vit. D deficiency and three weeks after i started taking Vit. D and calcium supplements my shin splints disappeared completely. And I feel much better. I hope this will help."
07/14/2011: Linzy from Denver, Co replies: "I run track and use to get horrible shin splints. I learned from a coach that a lot of what shin splints are is your calf muscles pulling back on the tendons and connective tissues that attach your muscles to bone. To correct this you need to strengthen the muscles on the front of your shin which often do not get worked as much as your calf muscles causing the imbalance that creates shin splint. The way that I cured my shin splints is by sitting down and lifting marbles (or other small objects like marbles) with my toes and setting them into a cup moving just my foot up and down. This strengthens the muscles on the front of your calf. I would do this everyday while watching tv or whenever I had free time. After a couple weeks my shin splints improved drastically and I could run again. It sounds weird but it works and you will feel your shin muscles strengthening. Stretching a lot too is also very imporant."